Guitar Hero is a franchise that Activision has seemingly abandoned in the last few years.  Unlike the cash cow that is Call of Duty the mega publisher knew when to pull back the reigns on this blockbluster series and give it room to breath.  This was only after we got release after release and spin off after spin off.  I don't know how to play a musical instrument and Guitar Hero meant a lot to me while it was still seeing frequent releases and honestly it still does.  I understand and agree with the fact that the market was just seeing way to much of these games, very similar to the Tony Hawk series the previous generation.  Sure it was hard to keep up with each release but I've spent countless hours of my life rocking out with my plastic instruments and I feel versed enough to rank these games by order of quality.  I'm only including what I consider to be the "core" titles in the franchise.  I realize others would categorize things differently than what I am doing here but basically I am excluding the mobile games and spin offs such as DJ Hero and Band Hero.  So it pretty much has to have "Guitar Hero" in the title and cannot have been a mobile exclusive release.  So without further ado here we go!

11. Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80's
Rocks the 80's is my least favorite Guitar Hero game.  Maybe it's because I played it the least.  Maybe it's because I prefer more modern rock music as opposed to 80's classics.  Maybe this is also because I can hardly remember any of the songs from this entry without looking up a list of them online.  For whatever reason, this game has always felt weak to me.  It really didn't improve or change anything from Guitar Hero 2 and most of the tracks just weren't that memorable.  It's not an awful game by any means but I personally feel that it is the weakest of the Guitar Hero franchise.
10. Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
I'm honestly not an Aerosmith fan.  They just don't do much for me.  Maybe the only reason why I'm not ranking this as number 11 is because it used the same engine from Guitar Hero 3, which is my favorite.  The gameplay from 3 still feels great here but what good is that gameplay when I don't really like most of the songs on this disc?  Really the only memory I have of this game is failing repeatedly on Walk This Way while screaming at Run DMC.
9. Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Van Halen is kind of a weird one.  Similarly with Aerosmith, I'm not a big Van Halen fan.  I do however admit that the guitar parts on this entry are stellar and can be hard as crap.  I remember a lot of people complaining and being perplexed by the guest acts in this game and while they really don't make a lot of sense they were actually the reason why I played this one as much as I did.  Again the gameplay didn't differ or deviate much from GH World Tour's so it felt just fine.  This just always felt like a strange mix of songs to me.  
8. Guitar Hero 5
Of the actual numbered entries in the Guitar Hero franchise 5 probably has my least favorite setlist.  I also had a big beef with the gameplay with this one.  I felt like GH 3 had perfected the mechanics and World Tour didn't mess with too much in that department.  GH 5 blew it in my book.  It just wasn't as fun to play.  It's actually a hard thing for me to describe but I felt this was a huge step back.  Add this feeling with the largely uninteresting songs and we have my least favorite numbered installment.  Oh I don't know who decided to completely redesign our beloved GH characters but they looked goofy and awful in this one.  
7. Guitar Hero 1
Admittedly it's a little hard to go back and play the very first Guitar Hero.  Things like hammer on's and pull off's absolutely got more polished and friendly as the franchise aged (excluding GH 5).  That being said cultural impact alone guaranteed GH 1 a decent ranking on this list.  While not my favorite selection of songs, it still had lots of classics and did a good job of introducing the music games genre to a legion of new consumers.
6. Guitar Hero: Smash Hits
I can hear a lot of you really complaining about this one already.  How does a game that is only made up of songs from previous entries make it so high on this list?  It's because the songs picked for this "Greatest Hits" game were largely fantastic and for the first time we got to have the full band experience with them.  Being able to sing or play drums with songs that we already loved playing guitar on as well as being able to play them as a group in a party setting was a real treat with Smash Hits.  And the songs from games such as GH 1 being redone with the new engine and gameplay mechanics made them feel as new and fresh as ever.  This is still my go to game when I have friends or family over and want to rock out.  
5. Guitar Hero: World Tour
I think I've hinted at it enough already and if you don't believe me then you can go ahead and scroll to the number one spot on my list but it is true that GH 3 is my favorite.  That being said, World Tour had big shoes to fill.  It was essentially GH 4 and following in the steps of Rock Band, it was the first time full band play was introduced to the series.  I was super excited to get my hands on it.  While the songs didn't impress or standout as much as GH 3's I still love this entry.  It introduced things such as the finger tap notes that didn't require strumming at all, unlike hammer on's.  World Tour was also cool because it continued to have famous musicians be a part of the stage presence, something that I loved from GH 3.  I really enjoyed seeing game versions of stars such as Ozzy Osbourne and Hayley Williams on stage and feeling like they were in my band.  This entry also introduced an awesome rocker and instrument creator that was a lot of fun to play around with and customize.
4. Guitar Hero: Metallica
GH Metallica is the gold standard for how you create a game for fans.  From the venues to the motion capture used by the actual band members to behind the scenes footage there is literally tons of stuff here for Metallica fans to swoon over.  I wasn't even a big Metallica guy coming into this game but now I like them a lot and I love this game too.  It's full of metal that trully tests your plastic instrument skills.  Some of the hardest songs in any GH game are present on this disc.  They also knew how to do guest acts right.  Unlike with GH Van Halen, Metallica actually hand picked other artists and songs and the result is a much more cohesive experience.  When I'm in a metal mood this is still my favorite GH game to pop in.
3. Guitar Hero 2
If I'm remembering correctly I think GH 2 was my first exposure to the series.  I still vividly remember nailing Heart Shaped Box for the first time on Medium difficulty and having this strange feeling inside of me that was unlike anything I had experienced from a video game in the past.  GH 2 improved upon much from its predecessor.  Hammer on's and pull off's now largely functioned as intended and the songs were much better.  Sure this may not have the whole band experience, may not feel quite as good and may be missing a lot of features the newer installments now have but I'm very nostalgic for GH 2.
2.    Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock
The last big release for the series was truly a strong one.  Fixing many of the issues I had with 5, it had strong songs, solid gameplay mechanics, and a wacky story mode.  You could import all of your previous DLC as well as entire setlists from some of the previous GH games making this a monster of a music game.  Ranking and constant progression was cool and you could also create your own songs and share them.  Incentives were also given to get you to replay songs with different instruments.  It came with a free Soundgarden CD and also had Rush's 2112 album fully playable.  What more do you need? 
1. Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock
Legends.  Of.  Rock!  Man I really love this game.  Personally I feel that it perfected the Guitar Hero gameplay and everything else that the two previous installments did.  The songs were incredible.  The guitar duels were unforgettable.  The difficulty that it ended up showcasing was also truly remarkable.  Again I cannot stress how much I just love the feel of this game.  I can go months without playing it and being out of shape but whenever I do put it in it's like riding a bike.  It all instantly comes back to me and it makes me feel more like a guitar slayer over any of the others on this list.  Guitar Hero 3 is in my own opinion the best game in the series.  
Alright so there is my list.  It wasn't easy numbering them all but I feel like I did a decent job.  I'd love to hear which installments you guys got attached to the most.  Also feel free to list some of your favorite songs if you want.  Lastly, do you prefer Guitar Hero or Rock Band?  I'm a huge Rock Band fan too.  And if you think this is completely wrong then feel free to share why.  Regardless, have a wonderful day and thanks so much for checking this out.  I'm gonna go shred on my plastic axes now.