While the destruction caused by a tsunami can vary significantly owing to near- and onshore controls, we have only a limited quantitative understanding of how different local parameters influence the onshore response of tsunamis. Here, a numerical model based on the non-linear shallow water equations is first shown to agree well with analytical expressions developed for periodic long waves inundating over planar slopes. More than 13,000 simulations are then conducted to examine the effects variations in the wave characteristics, bed slopes, and bottom roughness have on maximum tsunami run-up and water velocity at the still water shoreline. While deviations from periodic waves and planar slopes affect the onshore dynamics, the details of these effects depend on a combination of factors. In general, the effects differ for breaking and non-breaking waves, and are related to the relative shift of the waves along the breaking–non-breaking wave continuum. Variations that shift waves toward increased breaking, such as steeper wave fronts, tend to increase the onshore impact of non-breaking waves, but decrease the impact of already breaking waves. The onshore impact of a tsunami composed of multiple waves can be different from that of a single wave tsunami, with the largest difference occurring on long, shallow onshore topographies. These results demonstrate that the onshore response of a tsunami is complex, and that using analytical expressions derived from simplified conditions may not always be appropriate.