Gameplay is comparable to those of Asphalt 7: Heat, with the player given four control options: "Tilt to steer" (auto-acceleration with movement controlled by tilting the device), "Tilt and icons" (manual acceleration with an on-screen icon, with movement controlled by tilting the unit), "On-screen controls" (auto-acceleration with movement controlled by an on-screen virtual steering-wheel), "Tap to steer" (auto-acceleration with movement controlled by tapping along side it of the screen). The Windows 8 and Windows 10 versions feature different control schemes, such as the traditional WASD keyboard scheme.

5 star rating system for each race, using primary and secondary objectives introduced in Asphalt 6: Adrenaline and also used in Asphalt 7 have all been retained in asphalt 8 airborne cheats 8. Three stars are awarded for finishing in first place, two for second, and one for third. Achieving secondary objectives, for example performing a given quantity of stunts or knocking down opponents, awards the gamer with two additional stars. Obtaining stars within an event is cumulative - players who finished first in an event without completing the secondary objectives may replay the race and obtain a five-star rating whether or not the primary objectives aren't met. The core gameplay is slightly different, however. Because the subtitle implies, the focus of Airborne is on jumping, with tracks featuring a lot more ramps than in previous games. In addition to performing standard jumps, the player may also perform flat spins (by drifting onto a ramp) and barrel rolls (by hitting curved ramps). All jumps earn nitro boost; the longer the airtime, the greater boost earned. Destroying obstacles such as barriers and lamp posts or hitting traffic cars also earns nitros. Another new feature, which substitutes the "Adrenaline mode" in Asphalt 6 and 7, may be the ability to execute a "Perfect Nitro". Once the player hits boost, a small red zone appears within the boost bar. If the player hits boost again once the boost meter is incorporated in the red zone, the car will accelerate even faster, using the boost lasting until the player has no boost, brakes, crashes or hits a ramp.

In the initial version of the game, the career mode consisted of 180 events split up into eight "seasons", which become a lot more difficult. In later versions, additional challenges were added to the seasons. Once the game begins, only Season One is available. Later seasons should be unlocked either by earning a certain number of stars or by purchasing a "Season Unlock" within the in-app store.

Asphalt 8 may be the first game within the Asphalt series to make use of Game Center for achievements rather than Gameloft's own Gameloft Live.