Immediately, Five Nights at Ridley's distances itself from previous FNaF games by revealing that the player plays as the villain, Ridley. Ridley must defend a cavernous planet as a distraction for the Galactic Federation, while the Space Pirates commit other deeds outside of the game's scope. Gameplay involves laying and activating traps for Samus and other Federation police officers. The player has a limited time before each wave to set these traps, after which they must retreat to the core of the planet, where the control room is.
FNaR takes elements inspired by tower defense, including upgrading traps, but subverts the total need to defend the base. If an opponent reaches the control room, the player will have to engage in a boss battle, which can distract from the activation of traps if it doesn't kill Ridley outright. The game ends if Ridley loses all of his health, or after five waves.