Rhythm Heaven is made of 50 rhythm-based minigames. The games use background music as cues to perform actions.
After completing a minigame, you will receive a rank of Try Again, OK, or Superb. You must get an "OK" or a "Superb" rating to unlock the next minigame. Receiving a Superb rating will result in a medal, which is used to unlock bonus games, endless games, etc.
Occasionally, you will be given a perfect challenge. These appear only on levels where you have received a "Superb" rating and only work for the next three plays (of any game). Completing the stage without any misses will give you a gift, which is either text or music that can be read or listened to in the Café. You can get hints at upcoming Perfect challenges from the Barista in the Café.
The game uses the touch screen to control actions. Depending on the game, you can use either a tap, hold, or flick. Controls will be outlined in the game descriptions.