The game retains the basic hack and slash play of the main series. The player controls a character through a specific battlefield against an army of enemy soldiers with the ultimate objective of killing the enemy’s commander, although the player will be encouraged to complete side objectives that will raise the morale of the player’s allies or acquiring rewards. Spirit of Sanada reuses the engine of Samurai Warriors 4 and its expansions and retains that game’s play style and features. New features added include the addition of long-term battles, which are divided into several separate skirmishes affected by a day-and-night cycle that the player need to clear. A mechanic called “Next Move” is added, which allows the player to use a gimmick midway through the battle to aid the player’s cause, such as calling reinforcements or building bridges. Next Move requires “Sanada Coins”, obtained by meeting several conditions throughout the game or collected in the new Castle Town format.
The game also revamps the menu system. Like Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends but unlike the main series, the player does not choose a game mode in a separate menu system. Instead, once the player starts a playthrough, they are given immediate control of their chosen character, albeit in a hub area called the “Castle Town”. There, the player can access Story Mode, Gallery, and other modes by interacting with the environment, such as talking with the NPCs. The player can also do other activities such as purchasing horses, exploring the outskirts to face enemies and collect items, or go fishing to gather valuable materials or form bonds with other officers.