Deciding What to Play

With over 800 songs to choose from, it can be daunting to pick them one at a time.

Virtually every DDR player knows the experience of wandering aimlessly through song folders, looking for something, anything to play while the timer counts down its final seconds. With every new mix comes a wave of new songs, and after 17 mixes, decision paralysis on the music selection screen has never felt more real. A lot of the time, being able to decide on what to play requires you to ask yourself why you're playing in the first place. What interests you about DDR? In this article we'll look at various ways to pick a song to play, depending on your particular motivations.

In a Nutshell

Use different categories to narrow down your search for songs to play. If you have specific goals in mind, work towards them in whatever way makes the most sense for you; if you don't have goals, consider setting some for yourself! Use the Score Manager app to track your progress, and check out LIFE4 for some actionable goals for your skill level.

For fun

This is where pretty much everyone starts, and if it works for you, great! Just play whatever you enjoy playing. But leaving it at that is sort of a cop-out - the question here becomes “how do I find what I want to play?”

Most importantly, know how to use categories to sort the songs into different kinds of folders. You can sort by level, mix, some genres, and much more using the various categories the game provides. Briefly hold the Left + Right buttons on the music selection screen to change your category, or just scroll through the folders until you find the categories between them. Even if you're not looking for a specific difficulty, sorting by levels and then browsing a level you're comfortable with will give you more viable songs to play than simply browsing by version folder. If you know you're into songs crossed over from a particular Bemani franchise (say, IIDX or pop'n music), there's a category for that. Or, if you prefer the classic DDR sound, try sorting by version and digging into the older DDR mixes.

If you haven't played many songs yet, you can easily find a song that you remember having enjoyed playing by choosing your own "Clear Rank" category, which sorts the songs by your high score. On the other hand, once you're deeper into the game, you could use the same Clear Rank category to find songs that you haven't played yet to give your session some more variety.

For improvement

When meandering through the various categories gets old, you might benefit from playing songs for a specific purpose instead. Improving your skills usually falls into one of three categories: clearing harder charts, getting higher scores, and improving your overall game knowledge.

Breaking into the higher levels of DDR is a matter of stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying songs that you're not certain you can pass. If you have an e-amusement card, there's very little penalty to failing a song - you're guaranteed to play all 3 stages, regardless of whether you clear them or not. However, if you're anticipating reaching the Extra Stage, keep in mind that you must clear your final stage to be eligible for it. For this purpose, you can sort the songs by levels and try going a level or two above your comfort zone. You could also go into your Clear Rank category and try any charts that you've previously failed - you might be surprised at how quickly you're able to clear what once seemed impossible!

Getting higher scores can mean improving the scores you've already obtained, or improving your ability to sightread new charts. Either way, using the Score Manager app (for iOS or Android) is the most widely favored method for tracking your scores. Because the app uses the e-amusement website to load your scores, you'll need to purchase the e-amusement Basic Course to use it effectively. The app lets you sort and filter your scores in virtually any way you can imagine, so you can set your own goals and milestones, like raising all of your scores on a certain level over 900,000, or clearing every song in a folder.

Developing a comprehensive knowledge of the game means broadening your horizons as much as possible. Some high-level players advocate for playing every song in the game as a long-term goal. Of course, you can break this goal up into smaller units of work, like fully clearing DDR mix folders from earliest to latest, or going through individual level folders according to your skill. Comprehensive goals are't for everyone, though, and playing over 800 songs would take many sessions of grinding to complete.

Consider joining the LIFE4 ranking system, too! In their words, “LIFE4 is a goal-oriented progression system designed to measure and push your comprehensive DDR ability.” It's a great way to give your sessions a concrete purpose, with specific, actionable goals tailored for every skill level. It's also a fun and social way to measure your progress over time!

For new content

If you're keeping up-to-date with the latest DDR events, your focus might be best placed on unlocking and playing the latest songs. The exact unlock mechanics tend to vary from event to event; bookmark to find guides for active in-game events. In general, though, most events make use of the Extra Stage, and so knowing how to reach the Extra Stage in as few games as possible is important if you want to complete DDR events in an efficient manner.

There are two requirements for accessing the Extra Stage: you must have accumulated 9 result stars and you must clear the final stage. You can only gain up to 3 result stars per song, so in order to maximize your Extra Stage playtime, it's ideal to collect all 3 result stars on every stage. To recap the glossary entry:

Clearing a stage with a grade of AAA awards 3 stars. Otherwise, clearing with a grade of AA- or higher awards 2 stars, and clearing with a grade of A+ or lower awards 1 star. Additionally, obtaining a full combo or playing on the LIFE4 or RISKY gauge both award a bonus star, up to the maximum of 3.

In short, if you're able to consistently AAA or full combo songs, you should be able to access the Extra Stage without any problems. Otherwise, you could use the LIFE4 gauge to boost your stars, but this strategy carries the risk of failing the stage and losing out on all three stars. If you finish a game with fewer than 9 result stars, they'll carry over to your next game. However, any excess stars past the required 9 won't carry over, which is why it's significantly more efficient to aim for the full 3 stars on every stage. If this is important to you, you'll want to pick songs that you're confident you can either AAA, full combo, or LIFE4 clear (with the LIFE4 option enabled).

If AAAs and full combos are out of reach for you, don't sweat it too much. You'll still be able to access the Extra Stage, though probably not on every credit.

Miscellaneous ideas

Maybe you're just bored and want to have fun with the game without being paralyzed by indecision. We've all been there. Here are a few one-off ideas you can try during your next session:

  • Ask for song choice recommendations on social media.
  • Play the latest TAP Set of the Week from The Arrow Panel, SF EVOLVED's podcast for dance games.
  • If you don't regularly play doubles, try out your favorite songs on double play.
  • Find some rivals around your skill level and try to one-up their scores.
  • Try out the new nonstop courses on DDR A20.
  • Play one of the level 19 charts, just to see what it's like. (Don't hurt yourself, though!)
  • Try to clear bag on the lowest speed you can handle.

Further reading

As was mentioned at the start, the process of deciding what to play depends heavily on why you play DDR in the first place. Check out our article titled “Why play DDR?” for an in-depth discussion of this topic.

Much of the advice here boils down to knowing how to use the music selection UI to your advantage. Take a look at Navigating the DDR UI for a broader overview of the modern DDR interface for newcomers.