Police Quest III uses a point and click interface common to adventure games of the time. The mouse is used to select and interact with objects from the game world and the player's inventory, as well as to direct the player character around the various environments. For the most part the player is able to take their time in examining clues and solving puzzles, though there are also several time sensitive combat situations, in which the player must quickly access and use their side arm to shoot a suspect before being shot first.
The game also features a manual driving minigame whenever the player travels from one location to another; it is similar to that found in the original Police Quest, though the interface has been simplified and streamlined. In order to complete the driving sequences, the player must refer to a printed map which was packaged with the game, a gameplay element which was intended as a form of copy protection. There are also several points in the game in which, after arresting a suspect, a five digit "offense code" must be given correctly; they are only available from the game's physical manual.