The original arcade release of "The Simpsons" had players fight their way through a linear series of Springfield-themed levels by jumping, attacking, and pressing both buttons simultaneously to perform a special attack. The Xbox Live Arcade port of the game is played in a virtually identical way.
In both versions of the game, one to four players can play at a time. Each of the game's characters has slightly different attributes, such as the range of their attack, and can perform a unique combination attack with each of the other characters.
Gameplay is a fairly standard example of the "beat 'em up" genre of games, with the screen scrolling from left to right as players fight off oncoming waves of enemies and eventually face a large and durable "boss" enemy to finish the level. Between some levels, there are also competitive mini-games in which players attempt to be the fastest to alternate tapping each of the buttons.
The Japanese version of the game, which is an unlockable bonus in the Xbox Live Arcade port, had some small gameplay changes. Players could extend their life bar past the maximum by eating food found in-game, and several new weapons were made available, such as an atom bomb that clears the screen of enemies.