15 Cool Things You Didn't Know You Could With Your Guitar Hero Controller

The Guitar Hero craze of the late 2000s feels like ancient history now, but at the time, thousands of gamers across the country would come home from school (or work), strap on a fake plastic guitar, and transform into living-room rock Gods. There was nothing quite like shredding through classic hits like "I Love Rock N' Roll" or "I Wanna Be Sedated" before turning around and making dinner. Guitar Hero brought us all the glamour of music superstardom without worries like artistic integrity, drug use, or Yoko Ono. But the guitar-game fad flamed out pretty quickly. Original Guitar Hero publisher RedOctane was bought by Activision in 2006, while the game's developer, Harmonix, was purchased by Viacom later that same year. While Activision continued to release new Guitar Hero installments, Harmonix produced the similar but more diverse Rock Band series, which expanded the playable-instruments gimmick to include bass, drums, and singing.

The addition of another guitar-based music game was too much, and in 2011, Viacom sold Harmonix yet again. Meanwhile, Activision canceled development of future Guitar Hero games, leaving gamers across the country with plastic guitars gathering dust in the corner. But never fear! The Guitar Hero controller has some hidden uses you may not have yet considered.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

15 Play Fighting Games

via youtube.com

But even better than kicking digital demon butt is kicking your friends’ butts. Everyone knows that fighting games are great for multiplayer, but sometimes you just want to make serving up beatdowns look just a little cooler than mashing on buttons. Since the Guitar Hero peripheral is basically a fancy controller, you can remap the buttons and wail on your friends with it in a fighting game of your choice. Players have documented using the guitar controller for games like Soul Calibur III and Street Fighter, and the possibilities don't stop there. It takes a real master to play a reflex-based game like Street Fighter with a guitar, so prepare yourself to train in the toughest virtual dojo. If you can do it, you’ll earn unlimited bragging rights for life.

14 Hack It For Commodore 64

via youtube.com

Rock has a long history, one that extends far beyond the decade that Guitar Hero has been around. Maybe you’re a retro rock aficionado, and you have one of the Guitar Hero controllers modeled after an older guitar, like the Gibson Explorer-based version that came with Guitar Hero II, and you want the game experience itself to match. If you want to take that retro look into whatever you're playing, you can hack the controller and make it compatible with the Commodore 64, a retro console that was first introduced in 1982. That's before Nintendo even released the NES! Projects like Shredz64 are compatible with the Guitar Hero controller but take it back to a time before 3D graphics and studio trickery were all the rage.

13 Control Robots

via flickr.com

Though the Guitar Hero controller looks like a rock instrument of the highest order, its actual use has always been more down-to-earth, helping players interact with objects in games. Maybe you want to use it to control something more out-there. Modifying the guitar's original functionality as a controller, you can use it to pilot robots. That's what one robotics team in the southern US did. While it’s true that gaming controllers are commonly used in robotics competitions, Georgia's RoboLions went a step further and used a Guitar Hero peripheral at the Peachtree Regional Robotics competition in 2007. Their ingenuity won them the award for Innovation in Control. More like R.O.B. & roll, am I right?

12 Use It For Music Production

via youtube.com

Playing virtual music is all well and good, but sometimes you want to move beyond it and start creating your own tunes. You get a little taste of what it’s like to be a music star, and now you want the real thing. With a little bit of hacking, you can do just that, turning your guitar into an effective way to produce original music. One method is modding the guitar into a MIDI controller, which allows you to compose original tunes quickly and easily; another method, if you want something a little more full-featured, is to use it in the music production software Ableton Live, a popular program within the music industry. Soon you’ll be on your way to real musical fame. Just make sure to remember all the fans who got you there.

11 Play Rock Band

via gamespot.com

The Guitar Hero peripheral is marketed as only being for one rhythm game. Activision even has legal disclaimers on the back of the box stating that they discourage use with competing games – one imagines this is because they want you to buy one of their controllers, not because it would set fire to your console. Despite this warning, the latest edition of the newly revived Rock Band is perfectly compatible with the Guitar Hero guitar. All you have to do is plug the controller into the system and rock on. This isn’t so great for Activision, but it’s wonderful for players. After all, why buy a new guitar when the old one works just as well? Rhythm game fans have compiled massive spreadsheets detailing which guitars work with which games.

10 Play Dark Souls

via ign.com

Sure, playing Rock Band is all well and good, but what if you want to move beyond the music world? Maybe you want to be the rocking-est knight that the gaming world has ever seen, to kick monster butt with the sheer power of rock n’ roll. Well, the Guitar Hero peripheral can play Dark Souls too! Players have filmed themselves beating both Dark Souls and series spinoff Bloodborne with nothing but a Guitar Hero peripheral and their wits. It’s not easy, and it limits your ability to move through the game world, but if you want a bit of extra challenge you can turn your guitar into a demon-slaying weapon just by plugging it in. Turns out that fancy controller is just a bunch of buttons that inputs into a game world – who knew?

9 Make It Play Itself

via chubas7.deviantart.com

Maybe you still want to play Guitar Hero, but you don’t want the difficult task of, well, actually playing Guitar Hero – maybe you’re stuck on a song, or your fingers are just tired. With a little bit of hacking and ingenuity, you don’t have to put in the work. That's what Eric Falk did with his Guitar Zero mod, which you can check out here – with some modifications to the controller, he made it possible for the game to literally play itself. If only being a real rock star were as easy as watching from the comfort of your couch while your score spirals higher and the audience cheers. If nothing else, just imagine all the trophies and achievements you’ll rack up for your gaming profile.

8 Connect It To Your PC

via youtube.com

As cool as it is to play other games with the controller on your console, it’s still pretty pedestrian as far as we’re concerned. After all, the peripheral is made to work with the gaming console of your choice. But the non-Guitar Hero gaming uses of the controller don’t stop at console games. Why not go cross-platform and plug the controller into your PC? While the original Guitar Hero has yet to be ported to PC, the free, open-source rhythm game Frets on Fire is perfectly compatible with the Guitar Hero guitar, letting you shred on a whole new platform. All you need is a working USB port or wireless receiver, and you can open up a whole new frontier of digital rock superstardom.

7 Modify It

via instructables.com

The regular Guitar Hero controller is, let’s face it, just a little boring now that the novelty of virtual shredding has worn off. All the funky, real guitar-inspired shapes in the world can't disguise the fact that it's basically a fancy shell for a few colored buttons and a strum bar. And besides, what if you want to make the controller really look and feel like yours and yours alone? With some mods, you can spruce it up and customize it, making it a real fantasy instrument. Changes range from subtle, like making the buttons more responsive, to more noticeable adjustments like light-up buttons or Hello Kitty-themed faceplates. With a little adjustment, your guitar can be a fully unique expression of your interests, different from any other guitars out there.

6 Use It As An Android Controller

via youtube.com

The mp3 player revolution changed how we listen to music, and if you take a real guitar with you on your travels, you can create music wherever you want too. But the regular Guitar Hero controller is stubbornly stuck at home. What if you want to take the music with you on the go? With a little bit of tweaking, you can adapt your Guitar Hero controller into a capable game device for your Android phone or tablet. All it takes is some coding knowledge and an alternate power source for the controller. And since many Android devices natively support gaming controllers, the modifications aren't too complicated. Soon you'll be able to get your guitar on no matter where you are on your world tour.

5 Play It Like A Live Guitar

via wikimedia.org

The latest installment in the Guitar Hero series is built around a controller that's more like the real thing - but that's not the only way to achieve rock n' roll reality through the game. Not only can you use toe guitar in the recording studio, but with some modification, you can play the guitar live and actually become the rockstar you've dreamt of being. The Guitar Zeros did just that - they hooked up the Guitar Hero controller to a computer, "playing" the guitar controller in live performance. You can watch them perform and explain how they did it here. The advantage of this method is that you have fewer limits on the sounds you can make, doing more than you thought possible with just a toy guitar.

4 Become A Keytar Hero

via coub.com

Yeah, the game is called Guitar Hero – even though Rock Band and later iterations and spinoffs like DJ Hero introduced other instruments, the guitar is still the cornerstone of the Guitar Hero experience. There’s no such thing as Keyboard Hero or Vocoder Hero, keeping players from experiencing all the weird and innovative instruments that musicians have created over the years. But what if you didn’t have to stick to regular guitar playing? Wonder no longer. With some modifications, the guitar can become that awesomely 80s emblem of rock music, the keytar. One modder even combined it with an NES to make the most 80s virtual instrument imaginable - the NESKeytar. You can check it out in action, playing the theme to Game of Thrones, here.

3 Use It For Medical Research

via wexnermedical.osu.edu

Okay, so most of the alternate uses of the guitar controller have to do with music. Maybe you want to step beyond the bounds of the musical world into a completely different kind of environment. In 2008, researchers at Johns Hopkins University used the Guitar Hero guitar for medical studies involving prosthetic limbs. These complex artificial limbs can be difficult to control due to the technology involved and the fine muscle movements that patients need to develop. But it turns out that the Guitar Hero controller, with a couple of small modifications, is perfect for helping amputees gain control over their new limbs – the delicate motions required to manipulate it help aid motor functions, as any expert player could tell you. Its medical uses don't stop there, and scientists continue to incorporate the guitar into new experiments.

2 Use It For Science Experiments

via bbci.co.uk

And, in more evidence that video games can be great for society in a broad sense, the research benefits of the Guitar Hero guitar don't end with medicine. For instance, NASA has used the Guitar Hero controller in experiments that investigate the effects of microgravity on the human body, which helps the organization plan for issues that can arise when astronauts enter deep space. Meanwhile, other researchers have used it to confirm theories about sleep’s effects on learning. Bet you never thought Guitar Hero would be used to tell you how to study. Maybe you always assumed that the game was just teaching you how to play "Through the Fire and Flames" on Expert mode, but it turns out that there's a lot more to learn from Guitar Hero.

1 Self-Defense

via gamerssphere.com

And, if you have to, the guitar can be used as a weapon - no, seriously! It is a big blunt object, after all. Of course, we don't condone real-life violence, so if you have to use it, make sure it's in self-defense. That's what Melinda Walker, a grandmother from Indiana, did one night during a home invasion. While at home with her grandson, three armed young men entered and demanded that she give them money and her television. In her shoes, most people would be intimidated, but Melinda Walker refused to be afraid. Instead of acquiescing to their demands, she brandished a nearby Guitar Hero controller and hit them with it until they were driven from the house. Now that's rock n' roll.

More in Lists