50 Songs That Should Be In Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live


Yes folks, it’s time to finally dust off those plastic instruments (or cough up $80, depending on your preferences), because the boys are back in town. With Rock Band 4 having been announced by Harmonix last month (complete with a way to suggest what songs should be in it), and Guitar Hero Live being revealed just last week, the twin juggernauts of rhythm games have finally returned, with RB4 taking a back-to-basics approach (no keyboard anymore, alas) and Guitar Hero once again focusing solely on the guitar and deciding to take on the appearance of an FMV game from 1993.

I kid, but I am pretty excited to experience these games again, and extremely curious as to what songs I get to jam out to this time around, as you can see by the…um, rather large number in the title there (don’t expect descriptions here that are too detailed, unsurprisingly). What can I say, I’m a rhythm game fan, a veteran of all the main games in both series, a fairly big music fan (though not as good an expert as Bryce or Luke), a disc jockey from my university days, am kind of obsessive, and so forth. Honestly, I have even more potential tracks to include waiting in the wings, but these are the first ones that sprang to mind for me. Mind you, I tend to lean towards more relatively lesser-known fare ever since Guitar Hero II kind of inspired my tastes (and I hope I don’t come off as someone like Jack Black in High Fidelity), but let’s see what my dream setlist for either of these games would look like…

By the way, one last thing before we begin: Since Harmonix wants to try and find a way to make all previous DLC in the series compatible with Rock Band 4, I decided not to include any songs that have been in a Rock Band game or have been DLC for them, since no sense demanding any songs that they’re planning to bring back anyway. So with that out of the way, hey ho, let’s go…

1. Mastodon – “Sleeping Giant”

Let’s start with the obvious question: Will either of these games have Mastodon in them? If not, then they have already failed and should hang themselves out of shame. Although “Sleeping Giant” was already a downloadable song for Guitar Hero III, it’s still one of the greatest, trippiest, and most noteworthy metal songs of the past decade in my opinion, so it sure as hell deserves a spot here.

2. Wavves – “Demon to Lean On”

Wavves is one of those bands where every time I hear them, I wonder “Why the heck isn’t this band more popular?” You’d think that a shot of killer garage rock that soundtracks a tribe of junkyard-bred warrior kids straight out of Beyond Thunderdome would be massive, yet it isn’t. Feh, today’s fickle audiences…

3. Jawbreaker – “Fireman”

Despite the complaints of some fans that higher production values actually tarnished Jawbreaker’s sound, I can at least say that “Fireman” had the potential to be a classic punk hit due to its sheer catchiness alone. Alas, the band broke up soon after it was made, but hopefully we can still memorialize this gem.

4. Sigue Sigue Sputnik – “Love Missile F1-11”

I realize that the loss of the keyboard peripherals means that a new wave song with a lot of synth loses a bit of its potential as a rock game classic, but damn, there was just no resisting this just based on how much essence of ’80s it had alone. Not to mention the sci-fi groove in every sample and guitar lick…

5. Jawbox – “Savory”

Well, I couldn’t pull off a list like this if I didn’t give you all 120 Minutes flashbacks more than a few times throughout it all, so let’s start with another should’ve-been-bigger post-hardcore number. Seriously, was America just too traumatized by the sight of a little girl stabbing birthday cake or something to give this song the loving that it deserved?

6. Count Five – “Psychotic Reaction”

I’ll freely admit that I’m not the biggest expert on or fan of any pre-1976 rock music, as the near-entirety of this list will show, but I still think I can speak for all of us when I say “Why the F*** have none of these games used ‘Psychotic Reaction’ in them yet??” I mean, even I can recognize a legendary ’60s rock classic like this when I hear it…

7. The Chameleons UK – “Swamp Thing”

Sadly, this is not the song about plant-based DC Comics superheroes that the title might lead you to believe. No, instead it’s just simply an incredibly awesome and mesmerizing post-punk classic with some hypnotic riffs. I know, I’m sorry…

8. Anthrax – “I Am the Law”

…This song, on the other hand, is exactly about the comic book character that its title makes you think of. Yes, an entire thrash metal song about Judge Dredd from one of the most legendary albums of its genre. Not sure if that means licensing fees or legal mumbo-jumbo could keep it out of any games, but we can still dream.

9. KONGOS – “Come With Me Now”

Well, I suppose I’m legally required to insert at least one recent rock song that was actually popular, so I’ll go with “Come With Me Now,” a foot-stomping alternative number that was one of my favorite hit songs of 2014…um, even though it was technically first released in 2011. We’re a bit slow sometimes…

10. Super Furry Animals – “Demons”

If I had to name my own pick for a definitive indie anthem of the ’90s, “Demons” would probably be my number-one choice. The blend of different sounds that creates a delightfully trippy feeling combined with the wail of the guitars during the chorus that really feels like its letting those titular demons free for a bit…true magnificence.

11. Black Mountain – “Stormy High”

While Spec Ops: The Line was a video game whose subject matter may have actually traumatized me on some level, it also had a really damn good soundtrack, including this amazing burst of modern psychedelic rock that AHHHHHHHH THE FACES THEIR FACES ARE BURNING WHAT DID I DO WHY COULDN’T I SAVE THEM AHHHHHHHHHHH…*clears throat* Um, sorry, blacked out there for a moment. Where were we?

12. A Flock of Seagulls – “Space Age Love Song”

Truly, the greatest new wave love song ever that ended up providing the soundtrack to a battle between a giant robot and a kaiju. You know, at least until we can get The Cure to provide the soundtrack to Pacific Rim 2.

13. The Slits – “Typical Girls”

I feel like we could use some classic ’70s punk up in here, so why not a legendary female band that went on to inspire generations of future grrrl rockers? And with them, they bring along a bouncy, ass-kicking little ditty that would certainly be a hoot to play.

14. The Wipers – “Romeo”

And while we’re at it, we may as well throw in some ’80s punk as well…and Cobain-approved punk at that, off of one of his favorite albums. You just can’t beat a fast-paced number that feels like a semi-reckless cruise down the highway.

15. Refused – “New Noise”

Now for some ’90s punk, and while we have some other punk music before and after “New Noise”, may as well stop this bit before it gets annoying…unlike this song, a lengthy magnum opus of a hardcore punk jam that still impresses to this day. Also, any song with a video that climaxes with zombies screwing around with musical instruments is a win in my book.

16. Living Colour – “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”

Fun fact: Did you that funk metal lords Living Colour actually made multiple songs aside from “Cult of Personality”? It’s true! So maybe we should spotlight one of them that deserves the attention as well instead of, say, your online opponent in Guitar Hero III picking “CoP” to play for the hundredth f***ing time, awesome a song as it is.

17. Cave In – “Anchor”

Much like with Jawbreaker above, Cave In’s move away from their heavier metalcore sound towards something more polished with their 2003 album Antenna polarized a lot of fans. From what I can read, there are definitely some points to be had…then I turn on “Anchor”, realize how kickass it still sounds, and then stop caring about those points.

18. Queen – “Princes of the Universe”

Well, the Rock Band series has kind of seemingly used up every single hit Queen song ever made, so choosing highlights for a future installment was tough. “Flash” was the obvious choice, but they also had a second song that served as the theme to a sci-fi cult classic – in this case, Highlander – that doesn’t get as much love, so maybe it deserves to be included more. That being said, we at least deserve “Princes of the Universe,” “Flash,” and a re-release of “Bohemian Rhapsody” together as some sort of “Queen in Cinema” DLC pack.

19. Speedy Ortiz – “Raising the Skate”

Yet another addition to the list of current rock acts that deserve more success, Massachusets indie rockers Speedy Ortiz certainly have the most recent song on this list, with their new album having come out just this week. And with the lead single here being such a sweet blast of ’90s-styled rock, it definitely already deserves to be enjoyed via our plastic guitars.

20. My Morning Jacket – “One Big Holiday”

For some reason I always imagine this My Morning Jacket song as initially being the kind of song that conjures up imagines of a divine woodland forest at sunrise straight out of a coffee commercial…that soon gets invaded by fiery beasts from hell in various gleefully raucous, furious blasts of guitar. But a pretty forest nonetheless.

21. Rush – “Freewill”

A Rush song notable for two things: One, for containing one of my personal favorite lyrics in rock music, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” and two, having a guitar solo, bass solo, and drum solo all at the same time, which feels like it would be pretty damn killer to play with as a group while your vocalist goes to get a drink from the fridge mid-song.

22. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded by the Light”

…And for those of you who want to get revenge on the previously-mentioned vocalist for picking a song where he gets to slack off while the rest of you do three solos, here’s a prog classic for them where they’re practically guaranteed to screw up and end up singing “wrapped up like a douche” during the chorus.

23. Meat Puppets – “Backwater”

Another gem from those days when your music video was allowed to be as weird and nonsensical as possible as long as you had a joyfully surreal-sounding alternative rock song to back it up. And as you can see with “Backwater,” the Meat Puppets mastered that art. Now I can’t get either the song or the dancing clown out of my head again.

24. Every Time I Die – “We’rewolf”

On one hand, this is the type of rip-roaring, primal, fast-paced metalcore song where you might be in danger of getting too into the mood and find yourself thrashing your $40 guitar controller in the process. On the other hand, kickass song about metaphorical or possibly literal werewolves, so eh, go for it.

25. Medium Medium – “Hungry, So Angry”

Ah, ’80s post-punk, we definitely don’t have enough of you in games like these. That blend of seemingly dark yet danceable music is a treat to my ears, especially with something like “Hungry, So Angry” that’s punctuated with some catchy-as-hell riffs and a sweet bassline. Now I want to slap on some eyeliner for some reason…

26. The Black Angels – “Young Men Dead”

Well, if the YouTube comments are any indication, “Young Men Dead” is another great modern psychedelic rock song that’s already been in countless movies, TV shows, and video games, so we may as well give it another notch on its belt and add it to these games in addition to the rest. Besides, odds are you’ve already heard it or will end up hearing it somehow anyway, so may as well use that knowledge to master it in-game.

27. Ween- “Voodoo Lady”

Yes, you can probably argue that there are more weirder and more legendary Ween songs to suggest for these games, but “Voodoo Lady” always struck me as a quirky and funky little jam as is. A fun alternative song indeed, and besides, you can never have too many voodoo-themed songs.

28. Coheed and Cambria – “Feathers”

Again, these games have seemingly mined every well-known Coheed and Cambria song that they could think of, yet “Feathers” remains untouched. And it’s a shame, because despite being a little more straightforward then their more nerdier and progressive stuff, it’s a song that’s still an absolute blast that seems like it would be fun to jam out to. Plus, any song that sells itself with cannibalism deserves some honors, naturally.

29. Dinosaur Jr. – “Freak Scene”

Yeah, I’ll just cut to the chase and say that this is one of those indie rock songs that’s so legendary that again, you wonder why these dolts haven’t thrown them in yet. If you haven’t listened to it, smack yourself upside the head first for your ignorance, then click play, enjoy, and demand it as well.

30. The 13th Floor Elevators – “Roller Coaster”

Appropriately enough, my own first experience with the 13th Floor Elevators came while discussing future Rock Band DLC in a forum some years back. I never really quite forgot about it, and I think it’s safe to say that ’60s psychedlia as good as this belongs here as well.

31. Sebadoh – “Soul and Fire”

Wait, have I put any classic Sub Pop songs on this list yet? No? Really? Dang, time to remedy that. Sebadoh would be a fine place to begin, then, especially with an incredible breakup song as engaging and ripe for the rhythm game world such as this.

32. Queens of the Stone Age – “I Sat by the Ocean”

Well, folks from other gaming websites are demanding that the entirety of …Like Clockwork be included in Rock Band 4, and having heard yet another batch of additions to QOTSA’s lineup of instant rock hits such as this, I tend to agree. So while “I Sat by the Ocean” is the possible highlight, get to suggesting all of them, folks.

33. Boris – “Pink”

Back in the day there always seemed to be a lot of people suggesting j-rock songs as DLC for Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but I’d like to see some experimental Japanese sludge metal as well, especially if it’s as good as this. Bonus points if the vocalist has to try and sing Japanese lyrics in one way or another.

34. Julian Cope – “Safesurfer”

And now we enter the “epic” category. The neo-psychedelia jewel that is “Safesurfer” is definitely a lengthy beast, but a trippy, bizarre, face-melting delight that definitely deserves a place in the higher difficulty tiers. If it makes it in, ready your bladder of steel and enjoy.

35. Coliseum – “Fuzzbang”

One thing I noticed about this song while doing up this list – aside from the fact that I have now included three artists from Grand Theft Auto V’s Vinewood Boulevard Radio station – is that Coliseum’s Sister Faith album featured members of Jawbox, Sebadoh, and Boris on it, all musicians whose songs I’ve included here so far. So maybe that explains why I love a damn good punk song like this quite a bit.

36. Social Distortion – “Don’t Drag Me Down”

Ah, Social Distortion, my favorite out of the wide variety of SoCal punk bands. Your fiery, energetic, country-infused tunes are ones that I’ve cried out more and more for as DLC, but I think I’m going to go with “Don’t Drag Me Down” here, a fierce and speedy little shredder that would be perfect here…well, they’ll probably censor that lyric involving the KKK, but still…

37. Romeo Void – “Never Say Never”

First of all, screw you, Bieber. You don’t deserve to have one of your songs share a name with a post-punk classic like this, especially when it pops up instead of the Romeo Void tune I’m looking for while searching online. Second, file this under another song with a favorite lyric of mine, “I might like you better if we slept together.” Finally, switch on the video there, dance along to something as fun and sharp as this, then beg for it to be in both of these games as well.

38. The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Milk Lizard”

Now, upon first glance, you may be wondering the same thing I did: What does a catchy, crunchy mathcore number like this have to do with any sort of lizards, milk, and/or milking lizards? As you will come to learn like I did, the correct answer is “Don’t know, don’t care, hitting the play button again.”

39. Failure – “The Nurse Who Loved Me”

Possibly the most esoteric song on this list, but one that still deserves its shot at rhythm game fame. The way it just builds upon a whole wall of guitars and gets heavier and heavier until the end elevates it from yet another alternative rock song about drug addiction into something outstanding, like experiencing a bad trip for yourself without having to actually do smack.

40. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Belong”

Another artist I learned about during another round of people shouting suggestions in the Rock Band forums. Honestly, up until then I thought there weren’t any notable modern-day shoegaze acts still around, but dang, these guys sure showed me. Now I owe those folks in the forums five bucks while I join in suggesting a great song from an act like this as well.

41. KISS – “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”

Okay, I know these games have been hesitant to include any real-life musicians and/or real people in general ever since Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero got slapped with lawsuits and controversy, but I’m just saying: Set this up as an encore for a tier, have the phone booth emerge from the stage with lightning around it, then have Wyld Stallyns come out and rock with you. Boom, instant GOTY contender.

42. Shriekback – “My Spine Is the Bassline”

Another great one from the post-punk era that’s particularly funky and extremely earworm-ish. And guess which player and their instrument would benefit the most from this song! No no, go on, guess!…Wow, really? That was your guess? Um, okay…

43. Reel Big Fish – “Sell Out”

Ah, ska…another one of those subgenres that deserves a lot more love in these types of games as well. Mind you, it would be a hell of an easier sell if they made horn peripherals as well, but I still stand by the fact that something like “Sell Out” is a great enough song that would work damn fine as is.

44. The Rapture – “House of Jealous Lovers”

The DFA’s finest hour. Widely regarded as one of the best songs of the ’00s (which wasn’t exactly rock music’s greatest decade, in my opinion), it’s the ultimate dance-punk anthem, a chaotic and extremely fun party condensed into one five-minute song that needs to still be honored to this day. Plus, cowbell!

45. The Clash – “The Magnificent Seven”

Love Sandinista!, that experimental Clash album where they seemingly dabbled in every music genre possible. A weird yet fascinating piece of business, especially here where they experimented with rap-inspired punk and still managed to make it work. Besides, who wouldn’t want to force their friends to sing such lyrics as “Italian mobster shoots a lobster/Seafood restaurant gets out of hand”?

46. Hum – “Stars”

Well, you can never have enough hidden gems of the alternative music world in games like these. Especially those that seemingly involve potential relationships between Earthlings and Martians, with the type of fuzzy, otherworldly sound perfect for extraterrestrial romances.

47. Thee Oh Sees – “Minotaur”


48. Magazine – “The Light Pours Out of Me”

You’re probably sick of me talking about post-punk music by this point, but I promise you that this is the last song that I will include by a legendary early post-punk band with too many killer songs that I love that made for near-impossible decisions.

49. Killing Joke – “Requiem”

Okay, I lied about the post-punk thing back there. So sue me. But given that Killing Joke is a heavier band who influenced countless other massive rock acts afterwards right down to Metallica, I figured they earned their spot in a video game that’s a massive tribute to rock music, dammit.

50. Television – “Marquee Moon”

Alright, if I had to choose something to serve as the final song for either of these games, it would possibly one of the biggest magnum opuses of punk (also, looking back on this list, I may have had too many punk or punk-related songs towards the end, but I regret nothing), “Marquee Moon.” A ten-and-a-half minute epic beloved by countless music fans and perfect in nearly every way possible, it’s the type of legendary, lengthy, and challenging song that would be a sheer delight to play in a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game. A straight-up fun finale in the making, no doubt about it.

BONUS SONG #1: “Weird Al” Yankovic – “UHF”

Now, recent games in either series here have seemingly gotten rid of unlockable bonus songs in their more recent installments for reasons beyond my comprehension. But I say we bring them back because if we’re going to have any Weird Al music in these games, then the player has to EARN the right to play any songs by a master such as him, dammit.

BONUS SONG #2: Dragon Sound – “Friends”

This song from the cult film Miami Connection and given life yet again by Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has to be unlocked as well. Because as you can see from the above video, this is just pure magic that can only be handled by those who are worthy…

…And that wraps up my opinions on what songs I personally think deserve to be in Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live the most. Now, this may be a wild guess, but I’m assuming that given the entirety of rock music, some of you might have your own ideas and suggestions concerning songs that you like that should appear in either of these games. In that case, I naturally encourage you all to sound off on your picks in the comments (can’t wait to see what our resident They Might Be Giants and Babymetal experts will choose, myself). And when you’re done there, again, you might want to think about letting Harmonix know about your choices. We’ll eventually see whether either game lets you live out your dreams of being a rock superstar complete with your dream setlist as more details come in the coming months, but until then, peace out, and remember the golden rule: Be excellent to each other.

And party on, dudes.

Previously by Kyle LeClair:

6 Reasons Grim Fandango Still Holds Up As One of the Greatest Games Ever
6 Ways Netflix’s Live-Action Legend of Zelda Series Could Be a Disaster
TR’s 10 Best Video Games of 2014 (With Honorable Mentions)
The 17 World Premiere Trailers From The Game Awards 2014