This page will detail the various different ways in which players can choose to play in their respective game modes.
This was once the only way to play osu! standard until developers added other methods. Also known as pure-mouse, mouse-only players navigate the in-game cursor with a mouse and also click beats, follow sliders and spin spinners with only left/right mouse clicks. Widely considered the hardest method to play, mouse-only players who rank high in the overall rankings are usually greatly respected by the community.
The key overlay shows left/right clicks as M1 and M2.
Mouse + Keyboard
This is the most popular play style for osu! standard because it uses only the most basic computer hardware which are the mouse and keyboard. Mouse + Keyboard players play almost exactly the same way as mouse-only players with the only difference being that 2 keyboard keys (z and x by default) are used instead of the mouse itself to click. Some players use only the keyboard to click while others only switch to the keyboard when streaming (very fast string of beats) and use mouse clicks for other circumstances.
The key overlay shows keyboard presses as K1 and K2.
Tablet tap (or Tablet-only)
A play style for those who own a graphics tablet. Tablet-only players use a tablet pen instead of a mouse to navigate the in-game cursor but click beats by tapping the pen onto the surface of the graphics tablet itself without the need of a keyboard.
The input overlay will show all your taps as M1.
Tablet + Keyboard
A popular play style for those who own a graphics tablet. Tablet + Keyboard players use a tablet pen instead of a mouse to navigate the in-game cursor and click beats using the keyboard or the tablet buttons. Much like Mouse + Keyboard, some players also use only the keyboard to click while others will switch to keyboard when streaming.
Sometimes referred to as 'tapx', the community has come up with this term to describe how the streaming with Tablet-only playing works. To stream as a Tablet-only player, you alternate between tapping your pen on the tablet and pressing one assigned key (because only the secondary click button will work, and 'x' is the default secondary click button).
One of the possible play style for players who own a touch-enabled monitor/laptop screen. Players touch the screen to instantaneously navigate and click to the beat. This play style may feel slightly similar to playing osu!stream/osu!droid since you will be touching the screen directly rather than by hardware support (mouse, graphic tablet). Some players opt for this play style when they do not own a graphic tablet.
The key overlay shows your touch input only as M1.
Laptop touchpad/trackpad: While being theoretically possible, most players prefer not to use a trackpad because of the extreme difficulty involved (specifically, controlling the cursor movement on the limited space of the laptop touchpad/trackpad). The trackpad is used (instead of a mouse) to navigate the in-game cursor.
Joystick: A creative way to control osu!cursor. Player hold and move the joystick around to move the osu!cursor and clicks on the trigger/face buttons(depending on player's joystick design) or keyboard keys to register the beats. It is least preferred because the skill required to control the joystick movement and most don't own it unless they also play other games (World of Warplanes for example) .
Metal plate: A special way to replace the keyboard for clicking beats. This method is introduced by geckogates and requires some wiring and electronic knowledge to build. You will attach a wire to your clicking fingers (connected to keyboard's circuit for z,x) and will touch the metal plates to register beats.
This was once the only way to play Taiko until developers added other methods. To put it simply, you press your assigned keyboard keys to "hit" the drum parts; x,c for drum center (Red Don) and z,v for drum rim (Blue Katsu). Usually, skilled Taiko players uses their Taiko controllers (either bought or self-made) to play, most players use this play style should they not have the luxury of owning a Taiko drum.
There are two main styles of setting your keys placement in the keyboard, KDDK [Taiko default] or (DDKK/KKDD). These represent the combination of how you set your keys to hit the notes. There may be other, weird combinations, but they are almost never used.
For key-binding, the default is zxcv (KDDK).
The default controller for the Taiko no Tatsujin series(Taiko Drum Master for US). Most skilled players play using the Taiko controller bought or created from scratch. Player will carry each hand respectively a taiko/drum stick and hit the surface or rim of the drum to register the note based on where it is hit. Most Taiko controllers connect to the computer by using Bluetooth connector should there be no USB connecter.
Gamepad: One of the possible play-style in console variation of Taiko no Tatsujin series(including Taiko Drum Master). Players register Don/Katsu by pressing the face [R Don], arrow [L Don] and upper buttons [L/R Katsu].
The most commonly used and default play-style for this mode. Players press left/right arrow to move the catcher, and also can hold down Left Shift to trigger Dash!(x2 speed) mode. As always, it is possible to edit the keys used; some players enjoy a/d for movement and spacebar/Right Shift for Dash! effect.
A possible play-style for players used to pixel-old arcade cabinets' control scheme. Players move the head of the joystick and press the face button/trigger/keyboard key to trigger the Dash! effect.
A possible play-style for players which are comfortable playing with a gamepad. Players press the left/right arrow of the gamepad to move the catcher left/right and press then hold the face button to trigger the Dash! effect.
External guide for Mechanical Keyboard
This was once the only way to play osu!mania until developers added other methods. Players place their fingers on the keyboard keys with respect to the key-bindings and currently playing Keys setting. The advantage of this play-style is that it can accommodate basically all the 4/5/6/7/8Keys setting. The only catch-point is getting used to it and regular keyboard's ghosting effect/membrane keys (unless you are using a decent gaming keyboard).
DJMAX/O2Jam/Beatmania IIDX/etc. (7K) arcade controller
The play-style tuned for seasoned veterans at DJ-styled rhythm games. Most hardcore players of this discipline usually have their own personal arcade controller of their choice. Since 8Keys requires mapper's decision or Game Modifiers, most players owning these arcade controllers can handle up to 7Keys (max default) and 1 special.
Dancepad(4/8K): The default controller for Dance Dance Revolution series (Stepmania for community-driven). Players dance on the dancepad to input commands. Depending on dancepad and player's preference, it is possible to use the face buttons as input commands rather than the usual left/down/up/right arrow buttons. The biggest drawback is the maximum input at a time is four (hands and feet), which is very disadvantaging considering current beatmaps can go up to much more than that.
Guitar/Drum set(5/6K): The default controller for guitar-themed(Guitar Hero)/drum-themed(Drummania) rhythm game. Players streams on their guitar/hit the drum or cymbals to input commands. Drum players have a disadvantage compared to guitar players because they can only input two commands(two hands) at a time without a special kick pedal.
Para Para controller(5K): The default controller for Para Para Paradise series. Players move their arms, elbows and hands straight above the proximity sensors to input commands based on hand position through the proximity sensors. The drawback is that you only have two arms to input commands, excluding the use of legs.