Contender is an arcade-style boxing game which features an Exhibition mode, a VS. mode, a Main Event mode, and a Tournament mode.
The exhibition mode lets the player pick a boxer and fight a computer boxer. The VS. mode lets two players slug it out in the boxing ring against each other. The tournament mode lets the player compete in a tournament.
The Main Event mode lets the player pick one of eight different boxers, each with their own set of skills (life, power, speed and endurance), and work their way through the ranks (Local, National and World) by defeating 40 different boxers in order to win the World Championship. If the player is good enough to actually win the World Championship, they then have to defend their belt against numerous challengers. Players can improve their skills by winning matches and training between matches by sparring with their trainer. Advancing through this mode also unlocks boxers for the exhibition mode.
In the ring, each boxer can throw punches like jabs,
upper-cuts, hooks, and crosses, and is also able to duck and weave and block high and low while on defense.