In most of Brawlhalla's game modes, the goal is to knock one's opponent off the stage, comparable to Super Smash Bros. This can be done by damaging them repeatedly. Damage can be seen on the color display around the opponent's character icon, which goes from white to red to black as the player continues to get hit. The closer the color is to red, the farther the player will be knocked back, until they eventually get knocked out. Getting knocked off the stage will result in the player losing a life. Either the last player standing (the one who still has at least one life) or the player with the most points wins the match.
The game supports both local and online play. Competitive players can compete 1-on-1 to climb through the rankings. They can also find a partner to play against other duos to increase their collaborative rank. Brawlhalla also has several casual modes: Free-For-All, 1v1 Strikeout, Experimental 1v1, and a different featured mode every week. Free-For-All is a chaotic mode where 4 players knock each other out to gain points. In 1v1 Strikeout, players pick 3 characters which they play for 1 stock each. Experimental 1v1 allows players to test out upcoming features against each other. Custom games can be hosted online and locally, and they support up to 8 players per match, experimental maps, and region changing. You may join groups of your friends to create a clan, with multiple ranks within the clans. Clans gain experience from all members.
Brawlhalla features simple controls and one-button special moves. This allows new players to pick up the game quickly. Controls include movement keys and buttons for attacking, performing special moves, picking up or throwing weapons, and dodging. Keys can be rebound for keyboard and a large variety of controllers.
Players can move by running left and right and jumping. Players can perform quick dashes sideways while on the ground, and dodges while in the air or on the ground, either sideways or vertically. It is also possible to dodge right after an attack to keep pressure on the opponent. Once in the air, the player has the option to perform any combination of: three jumps, a directional air-dodge, a grounded move in the air by using a "gravity-cancel", and "fast-falling". It is also possible to hold on to the sides of stages, similar to the style in Mega Man X.
During a match, weapons fall from the sky randomly and can be picked up by the players. All of Brawlhalla's characters can use 2 weapons out of 12 to fight each other. Weapons include Blasters, Katars, Rocket Lances, Swords, Spears, Cannons, Axes, Gauntlets, Hammers, Bows, Scythes, and Orbs. Blasters, Lances, Bows, and Spears perform well at a distance from the opponent, while Katars and Gauntlets are more effective up close. Rocket Lance allows for quick traversal of the stage. Axes, Cannons, and Hammers all do large amounts of damage. Swords, Orbs, Katars and Scythes are fast and low damaging. All characters have unarmed attacks, should they be disarmed. Gadgets like bombs, mines and spike balls are also used. Weapons can also be thrown to interrupt the enemy's moves or to make it difficult for them to get back to the stage. Each character has 3 special or "signature" moves per weapon, for a total of 6 per character.
Four stats are assigned to each character: Strength, Dexterity, Defense and Speed. The combination of these stats determines the strengths and weaknesses of a character and affects how they're played, and can be slightly modified using stances- which move a point from one stat to another.