How to Play

This article is currently in the process of a rewrite for StepMania 3.9 and 4.0 CVS, and an user is using the default themes of SM 3.9 or 4 CVS.


Title Screen

  • Game Start: Begin playing the game. Don't forget to configure your keyboard or dance pad the way you like it, if the defaults aren't your favorite.
  • Network Play (4.0 CVS/5): Allows you to connect to a StepMania Online server and play over the internet. Details are in the respective article.
  • Select Game: Allows you to switch between any currently-supported game modes (dance, pump, and para [4.0 CVS/5]). As of April 2nd, 2007, the latest build of 4.0 CVS does not include the information required to play pump or para.
  • Preferences: Allows you to set up StepMania in various ways. These include:
  • Config Key/Joy (3.0 only): Allows you to map keyboard or joystick buttons to actions in the game.
  • Input Options (3.0 only): Go here to change setting specific to input.
  • Machine Options (3.0 only): Go here to change settings for thing like "difficulty" and "number of songs per play".
  • Graphic Options (3.0 only): Go here to adjust settings like resolution and texture detail. If StepMania runs slowly on your computer, you'll want to tweak these options.
  • Appearance Options (3.0 only): Change the appearance of StepMania by switching announcers, themes, and NoteSkins.
  • Options (3.9 and up): This brings you to a screen where all of the above 3.0 options items are now placed, plus some new ones.
  • Edit/Sync Songs: Edit existing step patterns, or create new patterns. Also, if your songs are out of sync, you'll want to use this mode to correct them. You cannot create a new stepfile from within StepMania.
  • Edit Courses (not avalaible in some themes): Allows you to edit courses, but as with the song editor, you cannot make new courses from here.
  • Exit: Exits the program.
  • In the upper-left corner is the total number of songs found when StepMania perused your Songs folder on startup.
  • In the upper-right is your version of StepMania.

Select Style

<SmScreen argument="Docs/tutorial_style.gif"/>

This time, instead of setting any options, you get to DANCE. Select "Game Start" from the Title Screen menu. Each game has numerous "Styles", or modes of play. The Styles for the game "dance" are:

  • Single - One player, one pad, 4 panels.
  • Versus - Two players, each with their own pad, 4 panels per pad.
  • Double - One player using both pads, 8 panels total.
  • Couple (not avalaible in certain themes) - Two players, each with their own pad, 4 panels per pad. This mode differs from Versus in that it uses only patterns designed to be interesting for two players (e.g. battles, routines).
  • Solo (not avalaible in certain themes) - One player, one pad, 6 panels.

Other game modes have most of those styles, excluding Solo. The number of panels will vary based on the game type (ie, most pump modes have 5 panels, and pump Double has 10 panels.)

Select Difficulty

After you've selected your Style (and your theme), you choose your initial difficulty setting:

  • Beginner (3.9 default theme) - very easy patterns for clueless newbies
  • Light/BASIC (3.9 default theme) - easy patterns for people who have played before
  • Standard/DIFFICULT (3.9 default theme) - medium patterns for experienced players
  • Heavy/EXPERT (3.9 default theme) - hard patterns for expert players
  • Regular (only for SM5 theme and certain themes) - Play a certain number of stages.
  • Nonstop Course Mode (not avalaible in certain themes) - In this mode, you choose a course of several songs, and play all these songs in a row.
  • Challenge Course Mode (not avalaible in certain themes) - Similar to Nonstop, except the normal life bar is replaced by a "Battery" life bar. You have 4 lives, and getting a Good, Almost, Miss, NG, or Mine (Shock Arrow) pressed causes you to lose a life. Lose all of your lives and you fail.
  • Endless (not avalaible in certain themes) - In this mode, select a group of songs, and play them forever until you fail.
  • Magic Dance/Battle (not avalaible in certain themes) - This mode is always 2-player, as a result, you play against the computer when alone and cannot select this mode if you Double or Solo style. At the top, there is a "tug-of-war" life bar that shows who is winning. There are also two bars near the middle of the screen that indicate what modifier level you are at and how far you have to go to "level up". As you get Greats, Perfects, Marvelouses, and OKs, the bar raises; and falls if you get anything else. The player who "has" most of the life bar at the top in the end wins.

Select Group

<SmScreen argument="Docs/tutorial_group.gif"/>

On this screen, you will choose one of your song Group Folders (DDR 4thMIX theme, SM 3.9 and SM 4 default themes only).

  • Choosing "All Music" lets you chose any song in any group.
  • Choosing any group will limit your choices on the Select Music screen to just the selected group.

Select Music

<SmScreen argument="Docs/tutorial_song.gif"/>

Now, it's finally time to choose your song!

  • Pausing briefly on a song will play a brief sample of that song, giving you and idea of whether or not you might want to try it.
  • The red songs are used for the Extra Stage.
  • The BPM (Beats Per Minute) for the selected song is listed above the song's banner. Here's a hint, higher BPM means faster, which is usually harder. ;) If the BPM is red, that means the speed of the changes while playing.
  • In the bottom-left is the song's difficulty rating, shown in number (only for SM 5 default theme and many custom themes). The more number, the harder the song. Aqua text mean you are in Beginner mode, yellow text mean you're in Basic Mode, red text mean Difficult Mode, green text mean Expert Mode, and dark blue text mean Challenge mode. Also, gray text mean Edit mode. Press the Down or Up Twice to change the difficulty.
  • To change the sort (by group, title, BPM, etc.), hold down the left and right buttons and then press START. While still holding down the left and right buttons, keep pressing START to change the sort type. In 3.9 or newer, jump to change sort, and press Up-Down-Up-Down to enter the sort menu. In Recent DDR Themes (Supernova ownboards) for SM 3.9 and upper versions, holding down the left and right buttons to enter the sort menu.
  • Immediately after you select a song, push the START (rarely you see the text to enter to Options). If you would like to change Player or Song options, hold down the "Start" or push it twice. Read below for more information on Player and Song options.
  • Congratulations, you're about to play the game!

Player Options

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The first page contains options specific to each player:

  • Speed - How fast the arrows move up the screen.
  • Acceleration - How fast the arrows move up the half screen.
  • Effect - Applies interesting effects to the arrows as they scroll.
  • Appearance - Changes the way the arrows appear on the screen.
  • Turn - Ignore this for now.
  • Insert - Ignore this for now.
  • Scroll - Change this to reverse to scroll the down instead of up.
  • Noteskins - Ignore this for now.
  • Holds - Turn this OFF to disable Frezze Arrows.
  • Mines - Ignore this for now.
  • Hide - FIXME
  • Perspective - FIXME
  • Steps - The last chance to select the difficulties.
  • Characters - 3D graphical dancers that appear behind the scrolling steps but in front of the background. Fun to watch for your audience, but a bit distracting for the player.

Song Options

<SmScreen argument="Docs/tutorial_option2.gif"/>

The second page contains options that effect both players:

  • Life Type - Switch between the standard life bar and the battery life meter.
  • Bar Drain - Controls how the life bar will drain and refill.
  • Battery Lives - Changes how many "lives" you get when using the battery life meter.
  • Fail - What the game will do if you fail.
  • Assist Tick - Turn on ticks each time you're supposed to step.
  • Rate - Change the rate at which the song is played, 100% being normal speed.
  • Auto Adjust - FIXME
  • Save Scores - FIXME


The concept of StepMania is pretty simple. The colored arrows will scroll up from the bottom of the screen toward the top. When a color arrows overlaps the grey arrow at the top of the screen, hit the button on your pad corresponding to the direction of that arrow. When you step, a grade will appear near the center of the screen saying how accurate your step was.

  • Marvelous timing - white flash
  • Perfect timing - yellow flash
  • Great timing - green flash
  • Good timing - light blue flash
  • Almost timing - purple flash
  • Miss - no color. You did not step anywhere near this note. Better luck next time.

When you string together Great, Perfect, or Marvelous judgments, it makes a combo. Your current combo is shown in the middle of the screen just below the step judgment. If you get a judgment of Good (depending of the theme) or worse (or mine pressed), your combo counter is reset to 0. Higher combos are better for bragging rights :) (and improving your high score).

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