Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit is a game that includes car chases involving the player's car and the police. The game has two main modes. In Standard racing, the player competes in normal race competitions. There is the option to play individually against computer-controlled race cars. The player can also choose to play in tournaments. Winning tournaments unlocks new vehicles and race tracks. The second mode is called "Hot Pursuit". Since Need for Speed is all about street racing, a police element is added in the gameplay. While the players are racing, police vehicles chase the racers and stop them from finishing the race. When all the Hot Pursuit race tracks are finished, sports-themed police cars can be unlocked. Players also have the option for a reverse mode in "Hot Pursuit". In this option, the player can become the police. The goal is to stop the racers from reaching the finish line.
Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit introduces to the series various playable modes. It is the first to allow a split-screen view of the computer screen. This allows two persons to play the game on a single computer. A Knockout mode is also introduced. In this mode, everything about a single race is chosen randomly; from the number of opponents, to the weather and race location.