Hot Shots Tennis is an arcade based tennis game for one or two players that is played on a vertical split screen. The game features 32 opponents with different skills, from beginners to pros. Playing is done with a joystick and two buttons: one for hard shots and one for soft shots. Pressing both buttons together leads to a lob. When serving, either button is pressed and the joystick is moved left or right to aim. When the ball is in the air a blue spot shows where it will land. The spot will ultimately turn red and the player should then attempt a swing. To hit the ball to the left the swing should be as soon as it turns red while to hit to the right the swing should happen shortly after.
The game has a time limit based on how many coins have been spent. By default one coin gives one minute of play time in a single player game and 90 seconds in a two player game. When time runs out the player has to use more coins to continue playing. It is also possible to earn bonus time during the game by accumulating skill points.