Why Rock Band 3 is one of the greatest games ever made

Rock Band 3 is the epitome of a party game. No other co-op mode has captured crowd-pleasing entertainment as impeccably as Harmonix’s definitive rhythm title; no other rhythm game could so magnetize and entrance its onlookers, or make them so eager to join in the fun. It’s the kind of experience that makes gamers out of folks who’ve never touched an NES, PS2, or Xbox 360 controller in their lives. Mario Party, Buzz!, Raving Rabbids – they don’t even come close to the communal delight brought on by busting out Rock Band 3 during a lively get-together. It’s for these reasons that we've included Rock Band 3 on our list of the best games ever.

The original Rock Band laid the foundation for the franchise’s success, coaxing families, dorm mates, or frequent party hosts into dropping upwards of $200 for a box full of plastic instruments. The Guitar Hero series, which Harmonix had previously created, made the idea of fake guitars palatable to the American audience (who might’ve never given a second glance to Konami’s rare, Japanese-centric Guitar Freaks). The addition of a singer and drummer was the next logical step, uniting multiple rhythm game peripherals into one shared experience. The premise pioneered by Rock Band had other developers scrambling to get their own four-man acts together.

Rock Band 3 upped the ante by enabling seven-strong musical squadrons: a lead singer, two backup singers (thanks to tech from the previously-released The Beatles: Rock Band), guitar and bass players, a drummer, and the much-ballyhooed introduction of the keyboardist. The keyboard alone justified Rock Band 3’s existence; in terms of classic rock ‘n’ roll bands, this was the only element missing from previous entries in the series. For challenge-craving musicians (be they real or just replicating their favorite rock stars), the keyboard offered charts that dwarf the five-color note-playing of the other instruments.

But contrary to what Expert-level keyboard charts look like (particularly in Yes’ “Roundabout”), what really defines Rock Band 3 is its accessibility. Including the “No Fail” mode in the pause menu was a stroke of encouraging genius: Instead of bringing the team down, budding rock stars could get their bearings without disrupting the jam session. Harmonix had also perfected its process for mapping songs into Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert note layouts. Each difficulty tier tries the players’ skills just so, motivating them to tackle the upper echelons of their abilities and break into the next level, where the whole process starts all over again.

For those who were already cruising on Expert difficulty, Rock Band 3 gave us new mountains to climb, with the exacting, often-Herculean trials of Pro mode. Pro mode is, in our minds, the closest you can possibly get to playing an instrument (and actually enjoying yourself) without investing precious years of your life. Hotshot guitarists must come to grips with a controller boasting 102 buttons in place of the original ten, the Pro keyboard tracks demand the precision of a true pianist, and Expert drummers had to adapt to the additional height dimension brought on by cymbals. Every previously conquered song was new again; we cherished revisiting old Rock Band 1 standbys like The Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” and Flyleaf’s “I’m So Sick,” songs we weren’t sure we’d ever play again before the Pro mode overhaul.


  • fcolon - August 23, 2012 6:46 p.m.

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  • nintendo365 - August 23, 2012 4:04 p.m.

    This is the embodiment of why i love Rock Band 3, knowing I suck at keys is definitely not gonna stop me from doing my damndest during Llama. Next one needs to be "Why Perfect Dark is one of the greatest games of all time"
  • bamb0o-stick - August 23, 2012 6:50 a.m.

    Rock Band had a great impact on my life in appreciating music. When you play that particular instrument in a song you love, you feel an affinity and resonance with the music. It's one of those experiences that people who haven't played Rock Band will understand. When you struggle through that one insane song you realize how much skill and talent is involved with what these passionate musicians do.
  • bamb0o-stick - August 23, 2012 6:51 a.m.

    It's one of those experiences that people who haven't played Rock Band will never* understand. Edit/delete button please.
  • funster - August 23, 2012 5:48 a.m.

    RB3 is THE music game to end all music games. I mean, fantastic, ever-expanding song-list of MASTER recordings, across almost all genres, with difficulty settings that range from easily accessible for the less musically inclined to the near-realistic finger-busters for those with the chops to pull them off. The one downside probably is that you do need a pretty big and wide selection of songs if you want to really enjoy the game with your friends. Thankfully, Harmonix does not disappoint when it comes to bringing in some of the biggest band names - it's just a matter of whether one is willing to spend a load of cash for plastic instruments and DLC.
  • TheCakeIsaPie - August 23, 2012 9:48 a.m.

    Go back to Cracked, ya stupid spambot!
  • JBizFoShiz - August 22, 2012 5:23 p.m.

    Unplayed by the masses, RB3 is how you do a sequel right. Being able to import virtually every track from previous iterations. Retconning every track to now be pro drum playable. Consistently pumping new DLC tracks every week. Chorus singing, pro guitar, and keyboards. This game, and music games in general, will always have their haters. But I STILL bring my fake instruments to parties, and there is always fun to be had for a few hours with good friends. It is a co-op experience that harkens back to the split screen days of old, only pure cooperation instead of competition is needed to get those 5 star rankings. Plus, any game that appeals to the coveted hot-non-gaming-girl audience is alright by me.
  • CUFCfan616 - August 22, 2012 3:19 p.m.

    *Freddie Mercury
  • lazer59882 - August 22, 2012 2:05 p.m.

    wow. i mean. just wow. first some weird niche disney final fantasy crossover kindgom hearts game, then the over-simplified and gutted mass effect 2, and now this? is the point of these articles just to stir the pot, and get as many comments arguing with you as possible? seems like a pretty IGN tactic, if you ask me.
  • dlam - August 22, 2012 2:40 p.m.

    rofl, lazer59882 mad ^^
  • Dante1924 - August 22, 2012 4:07 p.m.

    Rock band 3 is one of the best (if not, THE best) music games out there. You got the pro guitar, the keyboard, the classic drums, the microphone, all the components are here if you and a couple of friends just want to hang out and have some fun. Also, Kingdom Hearts is niche? Really? I knew it had haters, which is understandable, but by NO means is it niche, considering it had a sequel, and many, MANY side games. You are also in the minority (from what I'm aware of) that think Mass Effect 2 is not a fantastic game. Out of curiosity, what would YOU put on this list, lazer?
  • RedHarlow - August 22, 2012 4:57 p.m.

    A Disney/Final Fantasy crossover is certainly a niche, no matter how many sequels there are.
  • Dante1924 - August 22, 2012 6:12 p.m.

    I guess, but what I more meant was that it shouldn't seem so insane that Kingdom Hearts II would be considered one of the greatest games ever made, considering its success, and the same goes with Mass Effect 2 (possibly even more so). Basically, I didn't really like his attitude about this series of articles.
  • lazer59882 - August 22, 2012 7:08 p.m.

    well, get over it.
  • vent - August 22, 2012 12:36 p.m.

    Any game that has a keytar is automatically awesome
  • angelusdlion - August 22, 2012 12:07 p.m.

    cue the "l33t gam3r" rage in 3...2...1...

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