Luftrausers is an arcade-style shooter set in a side-scrolling world full of enemy planes, jets, ships, and other militaristic hardware. Players complete challenges to earn skulls that unlock additional plane parts. The player's plane can be modified in three points: weapon, body, and propulsion. Changing a body part of the plane causes both the plane to control and attack differently as well as causing the games music to be remixed. There are over 125 different combinations of plane each with it's own music remix and title.
The player-controlled plane only propels itself when the player chooses to, allowing players to cut the engine, turn around, and shoot at chasing enemies without changing its direction of movement. The plane automatically heals over time, but only if the player stops firing the weapon.
Multipliers are earned by shooting down enemies, but these multipliers drain out over time, forcing players to keep taking out enemies to keep the multiplier going. Scores are posted to an online leaderboard at the end of a game.
As the player earns more points both more enemies and new enemy types will appear.
Other unlockables include colour pallet swaps.