Light years away in a distant star system, in an intergalactic prison barge, four of the prisoners on the ship mutiny against their captors and escape, attacking the ship and destroying its controls and life support systems. The military crew onboard manage to bring the barge closer to safety, but all but one of the escape pods were destroyed in the destruction. Now the four prisoners and four soldiers must battle to use the last escape pod and escape to safety.
The goal of the game is to defeat all the other characters in as short a time period as possible. Depending on how quickly the game is completed, a different ending is shown, with the best possible ending having the character make it to the escape pod and escape the ensuing explosion of the barge.
The game uses two punch buttons ( normal, fierce) and two kick buttons ( normal, fierce) on a six-button controller, with two buttons reserved for taunting the opponent and the use of some special moves ( provoke 1, provoke 2). On a three-button controller , and , pressed at normal speed, are used for fierce punch, fierce kick and provoke 2 respectively; if the buttons are tapped quickly they will perform normal punch, normal kick and provoke 1. Similarly to Mortal Kombat, characters can be dismembered if they are hit on the winning round with any special move, although the game has no character-specific fatality animations.
While Cosmic Carange makes use of the 32X hardware to provide smooth sprite scaling and rotation, it is frequently unable to hit its target 30FPS refresh rate, slowing down considerably when too much action is on-screen.
There are eight playable characters in the game, divided into two groups, 'Military' (Soldiers overseas) and 'Renegade' (Fugitives overseas).
The military characters have the advantage of getting to select their armor before a battle begins, with three pieces of armor for their body, arms, and legs. Each armor piece comes in light and heavy variety, with the difference of either size of the part being the special move it can use. Armor can be destroyed if it receives enough damage, disabling the use of the special move attached to it for the rest of the round. The renegade characters do not have any armor, and do not lose their special moves no matter how much damage they take.
Before the game was released abroad as Cosmic Carnage, the game received one major change. The three human fighters were replaced with aliens. The Japanese and North American copies of the game are however, identical - region encoding forces Cosmic Carnage to boot in the US, however by holding , , and START during the introduction, the contents of Cyber Brawl (i.e. the title screen and human characters) will be swapped in.
Jake (ジェイク) / Cylic
Cylic is a redesigned version of Jake for the overseas version.
Karl (カール) / Tyr
Naruto had his sprite redesigned overseas as well.
Ray (レイ) / Zena-Lan
Zena-Lan is a redesigned version of Ray for the overseas version.
Bolt (ボルト) / Talmac
Bolt is a tall humanoid with big razor claws.
Finisher (フィニッシャー) / Deamon
Finisher is an humanoid creature that resembles a scorpion.
Stere (ステア) / Naja
Stere has a snake head, human upper body and a bionic snake-like lower body.