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DJ Hero was the closest thing we got to a Daft Punk game

Remembering Activision’s under-appreciated rhythm game

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Daft Punk in DJ Hero Image: FreeStyleGames/Activision
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Legendary French dance music duo Daft Punk is no more. After three decades, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo announced their breakup in the form of an eight-minute video, “Epilogue,” in which Bangalter explodes (he’s probably fine). While the end of their music project is a sad reminder that we will likely never see Daft Punk perform live again, one game offers the closest possible experience: the original DJ Hero.

DJ Hero, released in 2009 by Activision and developed by FreeStyleGames, was pitched as Daft Punk’s video game debut. (One of the group’s earliest tracks appeared on the CD soundtrack to Wipeout 2097, but not in the game itself.) Daft Punk went all in for DJ Hero, appearing in the game as digital avatars, and providing an octet of eight multi-artist mashups and two Daft Punk “mega mixes.”

Daft Punk was not the most prolific musical act — the duo churned out just four studio albums, a couple live albums, and the full soundtrack for the movie Tron Legacy — so their musical mash-up contribution to DJ Hero is something of a treasure. The DJ Hero selections lean heavily on Daft Punk’s least enjoyable album, Human After All, but early bangers “Da Funk” and “Around the World” make appearances.

Here’s the listing of Daft Punk-led mixes, crafted by DJ Hero developer FreeStyleGames, followed by a YouTube playlist of those tracks and more. (Cut Chemist also contributed a mash-up of “Da Funk” and Beastie Boys’ “Lee Majors Come Again” to DJ Hero.)

  • Daft Punk “Around the World” vs. Young MC “Bust A Move”
  • Daft Punk “Da Funk” vs. NASA “Strange Enough ft. Karen O, ODB and Fatlip”
  • Daft Punk “Da Funk” vs. Queen “Another One Bites the Dust”
  • Daft Punk “Robot Rock” vs. Hashim “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)”
  • Daft Punk “Robot Rock” vs. Queen “We Will Rock You”
  • Daft Punk “Short Circuit” vs. Boogie Down Productions “Jack Of Spades”
  • Daft Punk “Technologic” vs. Gary Numan “Cars”
  • Daft Punk “Television Rules The Nation” vs. No Doubt “Hella Good”

DJ Hero arrived in 2009 amid a glut of rhythm games. There were five Rock Band games (The Beatles: Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band Unplugged, Rock Band Mobile, and Rock Band for iOS) and five Guitar Hero releases (Guitar Hero 5, Metallica, Van Halen, Smash Hits, Band Hero) that year alone. DJ Hero was beloved nonetheless, once players wrapped their head around the game’s dedicated turntable controller — a peripheral far less pick-up-and-play than your standard plastic guitar controller or drum set.

FreeStyleGames made just one more game in the fantasy DJ series, 2010’s DJ Hero 2. A remix of Daft Punk’s “Human After All” appeared on the sequel’s soundtrack.

It seems highly unlikely that we’ll get a new game in the franchise, after the cancellation of the planned DJ Hero 3D for Nintendo 3DS, and FreeStyleGames’ transition from Activision-owned studio to Ubisoft support studio, Ubisoft Leamington.

The good news for Daft Punk fans and rhythm game nostalgists is that DJ Hero controllers are dirt cheap on eBay. It’s the perfect time to dust off the old PlayStation 3, Wii, or Xbox 360 and give it a spin.

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