3 on 3 NHL Arcade is a fast-paced, loose replication of ice hockey allowing players to pick three out of 40 of the NHL's top players, and pit them against a team of three opponents.
Similar to the NES game Ice Hockey, players are rated simply as fast, strong, or all-around, with obvious advantages and disadvantages for each. Conventional hockey rules are not enforced, and players are encouraged to physically block and check their opponents often. Big hits result in arcade-style powerups, like giant goalies, speed skating, and freeze-tag.
Controls can be button-based, or use the skill stick introduced in NHL 09. Trick moves such as spins and one-timers can also be pulled off to gain an advantage or bypass defenders. There are no persistent teams or seasons, but players can set a variety of options before each game, including time limits, number of goals to score, and turning powerups on or off.
Players can play online with up to six players, though only local players on the same console can be on the same team.