The objective of Return to Genesis is to fly a Nomad skimmer across many different landscapes, destroying aliens and rescuing as many scientists as possible. The player has to keep one eye on the scanner as approaching aliens will attempt to destroy them. The scanner is also helpful for locating the scientists.
The landscapes feature obstacles that the player will either bounce off, fly under or fly through. There will also be times when the skimmer needs to slow down to a stop and then flip over and fly in the other direction. If the player flies right up to the other end of a landscape, the player will find their skimmer has warped back to the start of the world again.
Some (but not all) of the scientists will be able to transfer their current project to the skimmer. Some of these project's effects are temporary, whilst others will be permanent.
The game can be played as a 1 or 2 player experience. In 2 player mode, players take alternate goes at flying across the landscape. Each player has their own score displayed seperately on the main screen.