Rockburst is a typical rock failure which frequently threatens both human life and construction equipment during highly stressed underground excavation. Rock lithology is a control factor of rockburst. In this paper, rockburst tests were conducted on rectangular prismatic specimens of six types of intact hard brittle rocks, i.e. granodiorite, granite, marble, basalt, sandstone and limestone, under one-free-face true triaxial loading conditions. With the use of high-speed cameras, an acoustic emission (AE) system and a scanning electron microscope (SEM), rockburst of different rocks was investigated. The results show that the strainbursts of granodiorite, granite and marble were accompanied by tensile splitting near the free face, and consequently were relatively strong with a large amount of fragment ejection and kinetic energy release. For basalt, sandstone and limestone, failure was primarily dominated by shear rupture. The strainbursts of basalt and sandstone were relatively small with minor fragment ejection and kinetic energy release; while no burst failure occurred on limestone due to its relatively low peak strength. Rock strength, fracturing and fragmentation characteristics, and failure modes of different rocks can significantly affect rockburst proneness and magnitude. The AE evolution coupled with SEM analysis reveals that the differences in the inherent microstructures and fracture evolution under loading are the primary factors accounting for different rockbursts in various rock types.