The game starts at the map screen, where the player can select currently available missions or access in-game features including a shop, casino, and arena. There are always several generic missions available, as well as story quest missions. Additionally, the player can play a bonus mission each day for a small gold bonus.
Dead Trigger includes two forms of currency, cash and gold. Cash is earned in missions, by dismembering zombies, collecting cash briefcases, and completing objectives. Gold can be earned in the daily bonus mission, and the player is awarded one gold each time he or she levels up. However, gold is included primarily as a microtransaction and advertising element - the player can buy gold with real money or earn gold by downloading other games.
Cash and gold can be used to purchase weapons, equipment, and character upgrades. Weapons are mostly based on real-life firearms such as the Colt M1911A1 and AK-47. Dead Trigger offers pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and melee weapons. Items include medkits and sentry turrets. Character upgrades include additional item slots and health.
Dead Trigger offers a basic progression system where the player gains experience points and can level up, but leveling up only unlocks new weapons and items in the shop.
All missions fall into several basic types, such as defending doors or killing a certain number of zombies. There are a limited number of locations that are reused frequently in both story and random missions. Another game mode is the arena, which is a wave-based survival mode.
The game started on iOS as a paid app and was later added as a paid app to Android. The developers eventually switched to a free-to-play model supported by in-app purchases due to "unbelievably high" piracy. 
Dead Trigger had over 100,000 downloads as of July 2012.
CNET gave Dead Trigger a 4/5, praising many gameplay elements but criticizing how long it takes to collect gold without using in-app purchase. Modojo gave Dead Trigger a 4.5/5, speaking positively of the game's graphics and gameplay but noting the lack of variety as the game goes on. 
During NVIDIA's CES 2013 press conference Dead Trigger 2 was revealed, used as a tech demo to demonstrate the power of the upcoming Tegra 4. The press conference showed a short gameplay video featuring a massive enemy. Dead Trigger 2 is scheduled to be released in Q2 of 2013.
- "How high is 'unbelievably high' piracy? Dead Trigger dev's not saying". Android Central. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- Cabebe, Jaymar (2012-08-22). "Dead Trigger Review - Software - CNET Reviews". Reviews.cnet.com. Retrieved 2012-10-22.