Stepmania is a dancemat rhythm game in the same category as the successful Dance Dance Revolution series (DDR). It expanded on the features of previous DDR-likes Dance with Intensity and added much more customization and flexibility. Most importantly, Stepmania enables fans of the DDR series to add their own music, something that was not possible in official DDR games.
Stepmania adds a handful of features not seen in previous dancing games, such as landmines which harm the player if stepped on (later appearing in Dance Dance Revolution X as shock notes), additional arrow scrolling options that alter the way arrows appear on screen, and the ability to change the type of life bar in use while playing.
What sets Stepmania apart from other dancing games is its level of customization. While the ability to edit stepcharts (the pattern of notes used for a particular song) is retained from the Dance Dance Revolution series, the ability to import custom songs, backgrounds, themes, characters, and commentator voices has been added. Players can create their own content or download pieces of content, known as simfiles, from a number of official and unofficial websites.
Due to the ease of customization, Roxor was able to use Stepmania as the engine for their dancing game franchise In the Groove (ITG) by simply applying a custom theme and licensing a soundtrack. Some of the additional gameplay modifiers were also used including mines and custom songs. Additionally players could bring USB flash drives to arcades and play their custom songs on ITG arcade machines equipped with USB ports on the front.
Later versions of Stepmania have continued to give theme creators the ability to further customize the gameplay experience. Online multiplayer was originally added to the game by custom themes, though it was later incorporated as a core feature.
The first three major versions of Stepmania had primarily striven for a visual similarity with DDR. The default theme used by the 3.x versions of Stepmania (the latest being version 3.9, released in 2006) is designed to be a look-alike of DDRMAX. For several years development efforts stagnated, but the efforts of several disparate teams converged in 2011 to produce what has eventually become Stepmania 5. This new version developed its own look and feel, included official support for online multiplayer modes, and fixed many long standing bugs.