First of all we'd like to give you a warm welcome and hug for joining our community. Let us explain a few quick things before you start your journey.
Before you start playing osu!, we recommend that you play the tutorial first (Peter Lambert - osu! tutorial).
After downloading and installing osu!, open it up and a window named "osu! update" should appear, wait for any updates to complete. When the game starts up, there will be a massive osu! button in the middle. Just click on it and choose "Solo" mode. You can easily search for a beatmap in the library just by typing it out, but what you're looking for right now is the "Tutorial". This beatmap will teach you the fundamentals of osu! play such as Hitcircles, Sliders and Spinners.
For playing techniques, you have to learn as you go as it's a skill you obtain over time. A few beatmaps are bundled along with the osu!tutorial, which could be a guide to you as well.
Note: If for some reason you don't have the tutorial, you can re-download it right here. After playing the tutorial, you're ready to start downloading different beatmaps!
Full explanation: Beatmaps
What is a beatmap you might ask? Just like any game, it will have levels, or sometimes maps. Well in osu!, we have "Beatmaps" which are exactly what you think they are, they are maps with beat (rhythm). Finding beatmaps for songs is easy! You can find every submitted beatmap here. You can type anything related to your search: song's name, artist's name, album's name, and even the genre! For this example we'll try to find "Coldplay - Don't Let It Break Your Heart"
Beatmap listing search
If there is an approved beatmap version of the song you are looking for, you should find it in the result pages. However don't be upset if your song isn't there! There are hundreds of beatmaps being submitted and reviewed so your song might be on its way! Please do not post requests for beatmaps you'd want, most mappers will map the songs they love, not what you love, but that might be a hint for you to start your own mapping career!
Beatmap listing search results
Once on the beatmap's page, there should be a giant "Download Beatmap" button (you have to be signed in first, otherwise, a yellow button will direct you to sign-in).
Note: It doesn't matter where you save the file as long as you can find it once the download is finished. Also, you can choose to directly open it but will force your osu! to start-up if it's not activated.
.osz file, clean beatmap file
Once your download has finished, you should simply be able to open the beatmap .osz file. If for some reason that doesn't suit you, you might want to hold & drag the file into the osu! window.
Opening the .osz file
Once opened, osu! should start-up (and probably update). To start browsing your beatmap library, just click the massive osu! circle in the middle, click "Play", "Solo". Your new beatmap (along with the tutorial) should be listed there. Choose the difficulty you want to play and you're off to become an osu! player! You may also play "Multi" instead of "Solo" where players will compete in live games. You can also be part of the fun.
Beatmap in the Song Selection screen
There we go! Now you're ready to play osu!. If you're having any issues, feel free to ask for help in the forums or in-game (press F8 to open chat window, under #help.
So what exactly is the "Solo" game mode? Basically, this is the game mode that can be played both offline and online by yourself. This game mode has no limits, you can play any map you have, use any Game Modifiers (sometimes called "score modifiers") you want, pause the game when your hand gets too sore, and restart it when ever you feel that your score or accuracy is too low. You can also check out the Local or Online leaderboard and see the results or watch the replays simply by clicking their tab. You can press "F2" to save a replay externally so you can enjoy the replay without the hassle of searching for it.
Full explanation: Multi
If you feel a bit lonely playing alone in "Solo" mode, you can always join the multiplayer lobby. The minimum requirement to enter the multiplayer lobby is only an osu! account logged into the game with a decent Internet connection. To gain access, press the "Multi" button. There, you will see heaps of rooms ranging from "Easy" to "Insane" levels.
Playing in multiplayer is a really good way to make new friends and compare your skill with other players. Once you join a room, you will probably have to download the beatmap chosen by the host. Click on "Click here to download this map" (should be on the right side, in painfully red tab), and your web browser should open up the selected beatmap's listing page. Just click on the big "Download Beatmap" button (you need to sign in first though) and open the .osz file as soon as the download finishes! Don't worry if you think your download is too slow, most hosts will wait for your download to finish and they will ask you for the percentage of the download. Don't be shy and tell them! If you feel it may take a long while, you can also tell them to play without you (Host has a special command for it, Force Start Game).
The multiplayer gameplay is slightly different from solo, as you will not be able to pause the game and mods are limited for players other than Host (Host have full privilege and can give permission by enabling "Free Mods"). The most unique feature about Multiplay is Tag Co-Op (or Team Co-Op for team type) and Team VS. Also, you can see your opponents/team-mates' scores as you play, creating an intense atmosphere as you try to secure the top spot.
This may look like a simple game of clicking circles and holding sliders, but it can get really intense and serious! Here's a few things you should know about osu! rank system.
The player's level only represents the total amount of score the player has gained on ranked or approved maps, regardless of finishing the beatmap or setting a new score. In short, relative experience of the player in the game. However, unlike other games (read: MMO games) you might have played, osu! does NOT give any advantages to any players whatsoever. A naturally gifted level 10 player can potentially beat a level 100 player (this means that all the level says is that the level 100 player spent more time playing beatmaps online). Also, keep in mind that you get higher scores when you get higher combos (hitting notes without missing any in a row).
Full explanation: Performance Points
Performance Points (pp) is a ranking metric aiming to be more contextually relevant to a continuous game like osu!. It aims to shift the focus from being on the amount of time played to the actual skill of the player. Performance points are heavily based on map difficulty which is determined by a unique algorithm in every gamemode. Based on this difficulty alone each of your scores is rated and assigned a pp value. Your performance rank is predominantly based on your performance on individual maps. The easiest way to improve it is to improve your scores on difficult songs. Do note that game modes are counted separately [which means, playing (osu!/osu!taiko/osu!catch/osu!mania) raises (osu!/osu!taiko/osu!catch/osu!mania) pp].
If you have any questions regarding pp, please refer to the wiki page for pp first.
Full explanation: Accuracy
Accuracy of player
This measurement is the average accuracy among all the ranked scores the player played. It is split into two types, player's overall and pp's accuracy. In your player tab in-game, the accuracy shown is pp's accuracy. For player's overall, you may have to visit the "Online Results" after you played a beatmap online or refer to your own forum page. In osu!, accuracy measures not only your aim, but the timing as well, so it is important to tap the notes perfectly to the beat. Pay extra attention to the approach circles!
Full explanation: Achievements
Achievements are little badges on one's profile which indicate that someone has accomplished an exceptional goal. Achievements' badge can be unlocked in various ways such as playing a lot or hitting a certain combo count in one beatmap. When you fulfilled the criteria, you will receive a badge at "Online Results" and your account's personal achievement tab. However, the meat of it is the hidden mission, Hush-Hush, where the criteria is not known and it is up to us to figure it out on how to get it. They are pretty hard to get but it is fulfilling when you managed to achieved it by yourself.
Note: Achievement badges can only be unlocked online based on your current account logged-in.
Full explanation: Chat Console
Knowing the basics on how the Chat Console works is important to those who are interested into making new friends in our friendly environment. It's also important to understand how to use it in case someone messages you (unlikely to happen unless you are well-known), telling you tips or asking for help themselves. There is a button to open up the chat on the bottom right of the screen but it's way quicker to just press F8 on your keyboard.
You will have a few tabs like "#osu!", "#announce", "#userlog" or if you're in a conversation with someone, you'll see their name as a separate tab. Navigating through the tabs is extremely easy, just press on the tab and type your message then press "ENTER" to send the message to the opened tab. Regardless, please do not spam (continuously sending short messages into the chat) as doing so will automatically mute your account for a few minutes and your "hard-work" removed from the chat. You can press "F9" to open the user list (called Extended Chat Console) connected to the server, and you can apply filter to narrow down your search.
Chat Console's friendlist
Those are the basics, don't be shy to ask for help in-game or in forums, also the osu!wiki is here to help understand the game more.
Full explanation: Beatmapping
osu! offers an opportunity to any player to create their own beatmaps. If you think you're creative and passionate about learning, you may start mapping your own songs. To start, simply access the "Edit" mode and drag your song's .mp3 file onto the editor. Press "F5" to refresh the song list and you should find a blank map with your song name in it. However, beatmapping is a very complicated process which requires a bit of dedication, and thus it will not be covered on this page. The best way to learn is to try it out yourself. You may read useful guides to get you started with mapping right here. Also, "Edit" mode can also be useful to take a closer look at any beatmap so you can see whats up with that part where you always fail! Also try to avoid editing ranked maps because they will automatically revert to being unranked (locally only of course) and you will not be able to earn pp/accuracy from it until you update the map again.
Here are a few resources to help you start your journey:-