Subway Surfers is an endless runner video game. The game starts by tapping the touchscreen, while Jake or any other character sprays graffiti on a train, and then gets caught in the act by the inspector and his dog, who starts chasing the character. While running, the player can swipe up, down, left, or right to avoid crashing into oncoming obstacles especially moving trains, poles, tunnel walls and barriers.
By swiping rapidly as speed increases, more points can be acquired. A crash results in a game over, but the player can continue running by using keys. The player can collect various items such as coins, keys, score multipliers, super sneakers, jetpacks, magnets, mystery boxes and power jumpers. A power jumper provides combustion by launching up the character, while a jetpack has an ability to fly, a coin magnet that attracts all coins on the track, super sneakers that gives the ability to jump higher and a score multiplier that multiplies the score.
Items, such as a hoverboard, allows the character to avoid collisions lasting about 30 seconds. Daily Challenges and Weekly Hunts give rewards for unique movements throughout gameplay.
Missions have various tasks measured by player accuracy. Up to 18 characters are unlocked using via coins, keys, in-game purchases, collecting specific items, or connecting to a Facebook account. Most characters have up to 2 different outfits. Meanwhile, up to 17 hoverboards can be unlocked with the same methods; each have different abilities that can assist the player. When the game updates to a new location, a new character and hoverboard will be available temporarily until the next update.