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The Evolution of Rock Games

A perennial favorite at happy hours and parties the world over, music video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band became household names upon their debut in the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, despite their rocketing up the charts faster than any other game (to the tune of $1.7 billion in sales in 2008), the games were written off as one-hit wonders after the sudden market crash in 2009.

New titles, however, like Ubisoft’s Rocksmith (PC/PS3/Xbox 360, from $80) — which lets users connect a real guitar to their computer or console — are proving there’s still time to turn the beat around. Although it’s not the first of its kind (think 2010’s execrable Power Gig) and it doesn’t address common complaints about games failing to teach real sonic technique (go, Rock Band 3!), the game does deserve credit. Paired with recent debuts of party-starting iPhone and iPad outings like Tap Tap Glee and Say What?!, it underscores a vital point: Ever-changing and evolving, virtually at least, rock ’n’ roll will never die.

As the following visual history reminds, the games and names might change from one decade to the next. But for sonically inclined joystick wagglers, no matter when you bother tuning in, it’s still the same old song.

1978 >> Simon 1983 >>Journey 1984 >> Break Dance 1990 >> Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker 1993>> Rock n’ Roll Racin 1997 >> PaRappa the Rapper 1999 >> Dance Dance Revolution 2005 >> Guitar Hero  2007 >> Rock Band 2009 >> Just Dance  2010 >> Dance Central 2011 >> Rocksmith

Editor’s Note: For more information on the history of the music video game, download American Way contributor Scott Steinberg’s new book, Music Games Rock: Rhythm Gaming’s Greatest Hits of All Time (downloadable free here). Providing a complete history of the field, it examines the rise and fall of interactive entertainment’s hardest-partying hits, and it charts the field’s origins to the days before the Atari 2600.